The Red Sox are gunning for their sixth straight series win as they head into Detroit Thursday to face a Tigers team they swept a two-game set from only a week ago.
While the losses to Boston started the Tigers on something of a slump--they would drop two games to the Pirates, scoring a total of three runs to extend their losing streak to four--they've turned things around in the last few days. And for that, the Red Sox are grateful, since two of their wins came against the Tampa Bay Rays, against whom they put together games of seven and six runs.
Can the Red Sox keep rolling even with the back end of the rotation due up? Or will the Tigers repay them for the defeats they suffered in Fenway?
Boston Red Sox (27-22) vs. Detroit Tigers (25-23)
Thursday, May 26, 1:05 p.m.
Alfredo Aceves (1-0, 2.42 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (6-1, 2.98 ERA)
Alfredo Aceves was a bit wild in his first start of the year against the Cubs, but settled down well enough to pitch five innings of one-run ball--a feat the Red Sox would be more than happy to receive against the Tigers. The Cubs didn't have anyone quite like Miguel Cabrera, though, so it will be interesting to see how he handles himself against the league's elite.
Max Scherzer continues to come into his own as one of the rising young stars of the league. While no team can come to the plate truly confident against a starter who's had the number of dominant outings he's had, the Sox do have something to feel good about: Scherzer has massive splits so far this year, allowing lefties to hit .279/.357/.484 off of him. If he's having trouble pitching inside to a lineup with seven of them, including two of the best in Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, he could have some trouble.
Friday, May 27, 7:05 p.m.
Tim Wakefield (1-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (4-2, 3.08)
The knuckleball was dancing when Tim Wakefield took the mound Sunday against the Cubs, leading to tons of weak contact and just the one run in 6.2 innings of work. Of course, it didn't hurt that the National League Cubs had little experience against Wakefield and his most unique of pitches. But even with the Tigers' greater familiarity, it'll really come down to whether or not Wakefield is on or not, and that's anyone's guess.
The last time Rick Porcello faced the Red Sox, things got a bit heated. While Porcello's star seemed to be falling a bit as he struggled through 2010, he seems to have turned things around in May, winning all three of his games so far this month, allowing just three earned runs in 20 innings pitched. In many ways, however, he's actually slowed down this month, striking out only seven batters in those outings while walking six, surviving on fly balls. Given that he also has pronounced splits to this point, it will be interesting to see if he can continue to escape harm pitching like that against the Red Sox
Saturday, May 28, 7:10 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (4-3, 3.30 ERA) vs. Andrew Oliver (0-0, N/A)
While Clay Buchholz' last outing was perhaps less dominant than some of his others this month have been, it did nothing to dissuade Sox fans from the idea that the Clay Buchholz who pitched so well last year was back. While the strikeouts have been big for Buchholz of late, perhaps the most encouraging fact is that he's kept the ball down in the zone and induced ground ball after ground ball of late. He'll need to keep the strikeouts up, but ground outs are what will keep him consistent.
As a fresh-from-the-minors southpaw (at least for 2011), the only part of Oliver's game that doesn't scream Red Sox killer is that he's got some velocity to work with. Typically, that's not a good thing for opposing batters. So far, though, Oliver has had very limited success in the Major Leagues. Whether being a year older and a year wiser will help him find the zone more often remains to be seen.
Sunday, May 29, 1:05 p.m.
Josh Beckett vs. Justin Verlander
The last time these two faced off back on May 19, it was the Red Sox who walked away with a slim 4-3 win. To say Josh Beckett won the pitchers' duel is a bit questionable, though. Beckett went six innings, allowing only one run while striking out three and walking two compared to Justin Verlander's eight innings of three-run ball. But aside from the two mistake pitches that cost him some loud bombs, Verlander gave the Red Sox fits, striking out nine batters along the way.
While Verlander had some serious trouble against the Rays last time out, it's never a good idea to expect to hit him. On the other hand, it's hard to take anyone over Beckett at the moment. Either way, this should be a good way to finish off the series, hopefully with a win.